Thriving in the School Holidays with Children
I wrote a post on Instagram a while ago asking mothers what is the hardest thing about having children home for the holidays….. the challenges they shared included:
- trying to getting anything else done
- dealing with constant sibling arguments
- finding some mama time for self care or that cuppa in silence
- giving children quiet time without using the television
- getting dinner on the table after a full on day with little ones
- enlisting the support of partners in the same way of parenting and such things as removing television
Can you relate to any of these?
Today I want to offer some suggestions that I’ve found useful in my own home and when working with mamas in helping them create a harmonious home life.
First up ….
One of the key factors that will change your life as a parent is supporting your child is “free creative, imaginative explorative play”.
So how can we support children in free play that doesn’t require CONSTANT adult interaction? Firstly we need to look to our environment and take time to set up play spaces for our children that are safe and provide simple open ended toys.
You can read more in one of my articles on Creating Space for Play here. Generally it is optimal to have two safe play spaces for your children – one inside and one outside.
Secondly we need to observe our child’s ability to play. Due to so much focus on academics and screens these days, many children find it hard to engage in self directed play. We go into this a little more in my upcoming course Calm + Connected Mama and I share ways we can help our children play independently.
Once our children can play independently we are able to then get pockets of time when we can read a book, meditate, create/ sew, cook or simply enjoy a cuppa, while still holding the space for our children.
The less stimulation you offer your children, the more they will grow their ability to be happy in their own company and resourceful in the way they play. It is so much a part of our society to be constantly on the run, focused on productivity and achievement. The more we can keep this from our young children, the greater their chance at being able to self regulate in all aspects of their emotional life.
The big key here is to embrace “NO” and not to feel guilty. It is okay to decline a play date and instead spend a good amount of time at home or in your own family’s company for most of holidays. Instead focus on time in nature, time to potter around the home attending to various housekeeping jobs, cooking, even cleaning and perhaps some handwork/ making.
My girls always love when Poppy comes to visit as there is always some ‘exciting’ project to be done outside. Children love to help with meaningful activities when the adults around them are truely engaged in them. What about spending the morning tidying and sweeping the outside area of your home, if you live in an apartment perhaps you could rake some leaves in the common area?
BEE MORE PRESENT, DO LESS
I honestly believe that the more we can embrace doing less, the happier and more content we (and our children ) will be.
Motherhood is a time for us to be present with our children, however with so much focus on our external world, we often find ourselves trying to keep up with all the activities and working to afford daycare & the general cost of living in today’s society with so much focus on STUFF.
There is also the possibility that we fill our days with all this busy as somewhere deep within us feels suffocated and uncomfortable, unproductive with being at home with our children.
Homemaking is not something as valued by our society as it once was and many parents have lost the roadmap to the very nourishing art.
Instead many of us are raised to be busy, productive and efficient. Having children challenge this in every which way possible. Our children teach us surrender, to see the joy and magic in the littlest things and the importance of nourishing our bodies with regular wholesome meals.
So what about when we have things that we simply must do. We consider ways we can be supported – whether by our own habits, such as earlier nights & earlier morning rising, prepping before bed or we consider where we can ask for help by extended family or friends.
NO SCREEN TIME
Most of us know the dangers of letting children watch television and the impact on their development, so this post is not about making you feel more mama guilt. We each do the best we can in each moment.
No screen time may sound extreme, however I really feel for young children there is no grey area, no middle area of compromise with screen time. Especially during early childhood which I consider the foundational years of 0-7 years. Children are not able to rationalise the feelings they feel when we try to regulate the amount they watch. For me there is absolutely no question about it…..television makes parenting harder than it needs to be.
So how can you offer your child some quiet time without the screen, for those children who are always on the go? This really depends on your children’s ability to engage in healthy free play. The more your child can play, the more you will see natural rhythms forming in their play – outside versus inside, playing together with a sibling, time on their own exploring their surroundings and time for connection with a parent/ carer.
A great way to start is to use the time you would usually use the television for quiet connection together. I know I know, you want to get something done. Yep I’ve been there, but you know what…… Just let it go. If it’s urgent then organise a friend or family to come and watch the children so you can be fully present in your task.
However after pretty much every time I give my children 10-20 minutes of my full present attention I find they go off to play, giving me those little pockets to do those odd jobs.
Whether you sit together to have a quiet snack …maybe something a little out of the ordinary, such as a picnic rug outside or settling down with your little ones on the lounge to read stories. You could also consider ideas such as a cool or warm bath (depending on the season) or some sandpit play with mama sitting alongside.
This is a big topic and I if you are keen on embarking on some screen free time, my dear friend Meg (from Whole Family Rhythms) has created a fabulous training “Unplug Childhood Training” you can check it out here.
If you are looking for research on the negative impact television has on children, you may enjoy this TED talk and the book Endangered Minds by Jane M Healy Ph.D. There is really so much research out there so I encourage you to have an explore if you are seeking more information.
To address some of the other questions, mamas had on sibling rivalry and enlisting the support of our co-parents I believe a lot of this comes down to our mindset and the energy in our home. Something we work on in the Calm + Connected Mama E-Course.
I hope some of these ideas have been helpful. If so please consider sharing this article with other mamas that may be seeking some fresh inspiration these holidays.
I’d love to know what is one change you feel inspired to make in your home these holidays?
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Hi I’m Natalie,
I teach mothers to hand-sew treasures for a magical childhood while delighting their own creative spirit!
My ebook Magical Birthdays for Children: A guide to creating wholehearted & mindful celebrations has offered inspiration & creativity to thousands of parents around the world.